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Edinburgh: WILLL\M HODGE 








The following pages embody a Lecture 
which I recently delivered to the Glasgow 
Dickens Society. At the request of the 
Society, I have revised it for publication in 
book form. 

T. A. F. 

Glasgow, October, 1910. 


Charles Dickens was pre-eminently the 
novelist of the law, and his lawyers have 
a hold upon the public imagination far 
surpassing that of any other author. But, 
although his lawyer creations are most 
widely known, he is not the only author 
who has built a tale upon a legal foundation. 
A few references selected at random may 
be interesting by way of contrast. 

Next to "Bleak House" of Dickens, 
perhaps the most sustained literary effort of 
this description is that delightful, if some- 
what long-drawn-out, tale of seventy years 
ao-o — nowadays, I fear, seldom read, even 

8 Charles Dickens 

by the young lawyer — " Ten Thousand a 
Year." written by Samuel Warren, who was 
himself a lawyer, and who built a long tale 
upon a flaw in an estate title — a tale which 
involved not one, but several lawsuits, not 
less intricate thdin yar^idyce and Jarndyce, the 
famous Chancery suit upon which Dickens 
built his chief legal novel. In this book 
Warren created Quirk, Gamin & Snap, who 
held the field as representing the type 
of sharp-practice solicitor till put in the 
shade by Dodson & Fogg of "Pickwick" 

Anthony Trollope, In his book " Orley 
Farm," produced a novel of the law which 
contains some striking legal characters, 
including that typical old-time barrister 
Mr. Furnival, K.C., M.P., and that delight- 
ful and eccentric Old Bailey practitioner 
Mr. Chaffanbrass, whose personality is akin 
to more than one of the Dickens creations. 

and the Law 9 

and whose portrait, as thus pen-painted by 
Trollope, is quite in the Dickens style : 

In person Mr. Chaffanbrass is a little man, and a very 
dirty little man. He has all manner of nasty tricks about 
him, which make him a disagreeable neighbour. His 
wig is never at ease upon his head, but is poked by him, 
sometimes over one ear, and sometimes over the other, 
now on the back of his head, and then on his nose ; and 
it is impossible to say in which guise he looks most 
cruel, most sharp, and most intolerable. His linen is 
never clean, his hands never washed, and his clothes 
never new. But his tongue — that moves — there is the 
weapon which he knows how to use. 

Smollett had rather an ambition after legal 
portraiture, and in his legal novel "Sir 
Launcelot Greaves " he gives this full- 
length portrait of a young and painfully 
respectable attorney : 

Tom Clarke was a young fellow whose goodness of 
heart even the exercise of his profession had not been 
able to corrupt. Before strangers he never owned 
himself an attorney without blushing, though he had no 
reason to blush for his own practice, for he constantly 
refused to engage in the cause of any client whose 
character was equivocal, and was never known to act 

lo Charles Dickens 

with such industry as when concerned for the widow and 
orphan, or any other that sued in forma pauperis. 
Indeed, he was so replete with human kindness that, as 
often as an afflicting story or circumstance was told in 
his hearing, it overflowed in his eyes. 

One cannot help thinking that this most 
exemplary young lawyer must have been 
amongst the good who die young. He is 
the type of young lawyer who could not have 
failed to be a bore, and we are not surprised 
that the portrait goes on to say : 

He piqued himself on understanding the practice of 
the Courts, and in private company he took pleasure in 
laying down the law.. 

Perhaps human nature is perverse, but I 
fear this is not the type of lawyer the public 
craves to see represented on the stage or 
presented to them in the pages of fiction, and 
it is not surprising that " Sir Launcelot 
Greaves" was Smollett's least successful novel. 
His lawyers, however, were not all impossibly 
good like Mr. Tom Clarke. In " Ferdinand, 

and the Law 1 1 

Count Fathom," we meet a different type of 
attorney. His fortune was made — as has 
happened before and since — by special 
ingenuity in the construction of bills of costs, 
and one cannot but sympathise with his luck- 
less client who found that his lawyer's bill 
included 350 consultation fees in the course 
of a year of only 365 days including Sundays. 
But this attorney also deserves our sympathy, 
for Count Fathom's mode of paying his 
lawyer's bill was to split the poor attorney's 
head with a poker, and when remonstrated 
with by the doctor — who took a grave view 
of the possible result of his violence — his 
reply is significant of the estimation in 
which, in Smollett's day, the attorney was 

I am not so unacquainted with the resistance of an 
attorney's skull as to believe the chastisement I have 
Inflicted upon him will at all endanger his life, which is 
in much greater danger from the hands of the common 

12 Charles Dickens 

Fielding had no exalted opinion of the 
solicitors of his day, although, as a member 
of the bar, he must have looked to them for 
briefs. His opinion is quaintly expressed in 
his left-handed compliment to Mr. Dowling, 
the attorney in "Tom Jones," of whom it is 
quaintly remarked that "he had not divested 
himself of humanity in being an attorney." 

In " Man and Wife " Wilkie Collins pre- 
sents two colourless solicitors described as 
belonging to — 

That large class of purely mechanical and perfectly 
mediocre persons connected with the practice of the law, 
who will probably, in a more advanced state of society, 
be superseded by machinery. 

This description of the colourless type of 
lawyer is, in suggestiveness, worthy of 
Dickens himself 

Perhaps the most optimistic view of the 
lawyer in modern fiction is that in Sir 
Walter Besant's legal novel "The Ivory 

and the Law i 3 

Gate," a book which contains quite a number 
of legal characters, and not a bad one 
amongst them. His portrait of a solicitor 
is in refreshing contrast to some of those 
I have quoted. 

The solicitor is always engaged in considering how 
best to guide his fellow-man through the labyrinthine 
world. He receives his fellow-man at his entrance into 
life as a ward ; he receives him grown up as a client ; 
he advises him all his life, at every step, and in every 
emergency. If the chent goes into partnership, or 
marries, or buys a house, or builds one, or gets into 
trouble, the solicitor advises and assists him. When 
the client grows old, the solicitor makes his will. When 
the client dies, the solicitor becomes executor and his 
trustee, and administers his estate. It is thus a life 
spent entirely for other people. I know not of any other 
profession, unless it be medicine, that so much can be 
said of. And think what terrors, what anxieties, what 
disappointments the soHcitor witnesses and alleviates. 
Think of the family scandals he hushes up and keeps 
secret. Good Heavens ! if a solicitor in large practice 
were to tell what he knows, think of the terrible 
disclosures ! He knows everything. He knows more 
tnan a Roman Catholic priest, because his penitents not 
only reveal their own sins, but also those of their wives, 
and sons, and friends, and partners. 

14 Charles Dickens 

This humorously sarcastic picture strikes 
just the note which explains the frequent use 
of the lawyer on the stage and in fiction. 
The many-sidedness of the profession of the 
law lends itself to the most varied treatment. 
Nothing in the way of knowledge (especially 
knowledge of so-called secrets) is so deep, 
and nothing in the way of behaviour is so 
eccentric, but a lawyer can be made to fit 
the part, and so it is not surprising that the 
pages of fiction teem with lawyers, and that 
no melodrama is complete without a stage 
lawyer in rusty black. 

Perhaps the most lovable of all lawyers in 
fiction are those in Thackeray's "Pendennis "; 
and in " Philip " he presents us in Mr. Bond, 
of Bond & Selby, with a unique type 
of lawyer who had the courage to quarrel 
with his best client. 

In " Perlycross " Mr. Blackmore presents 
Mr. Webber, a family solicitor, who was 

and the Law 1 5 

" no time server, only bound by his duty to 
the firm and his sense of loyal service to a 

In "Thicker than Water" Mr. James 
Payn introduces a solicitor with a high 
sense of honour and no small amount of 
professional courage, who, to his own loss, 
sacrificed a client for whom he refused to 
make a will which was palpably unjust ; but 
he had this satisfaction, that the will, being- 
executed by a rival solicitor, was afterwards 
found to be invalid. 

In " The Castle Inn " of Mr. Stanley Wey- 
man Mr. Peter Fishwick is another example 
in fiction of the poor but honest attorney. 

Instances might be multiplied indefinitely 
of novels in which the law and the 
lawyer play a part, I had almost said in 
which the law is dragged in and the lawyer 
is made to act a part, for in a vast number of 
instances the novelist's ideas about what the 

1 6 Charles Dickens 

law is are exceedingly amusing. Plots are 
evolved out of legal situations which could 
never occur, and lawyers are represented as 
saying and doing things which no sane 
lawyer in real life would ever dream of 
saying or doing. It has often struck me 
that some young lawyer with time on his 
hands might do his profession a service, and 
amuse the public, by compiling a volume 
of extracts from popular novels setting 
forth the law as expressed in the novels, 
and in a parallel column the law as 
it really is. Often the law is regarded 
as a subject with which the novelist 
may take a wide licence and may present 
legal principles and legal practices, not 
as they really exist, but as the exigencies 
of the tale, and the evolution of the 
plot, require. I do not suppose anybody 
wants a serious view of the law presented in 
the pages of a novel, for the law student 

and the Law 1 7 

does not go there for his legal principles, or 
to inform himself of the correct practice of 
the Courts ; and the real view of the law, as 
applied to the circumstances created by the 
novelist, would very often be sordid and 
uninteresting, whilst imaginative law, in 
the hands of a clever writer, can be made 
interesting, and sometimes even exciting. 

After all, the view of the law which so 
often prevails in fiction is true to human 
experience, for the bulk of humanity — 
especially that portion of it which has 
escaped falling into the toils of the law as a 
personal experience — looks at the matter 
broadly and regards the profession col- 
lectively. It is not uncommon in every- 
day life to hear disparaging comment 
on the legal profession, made by people 
who, if caught up sharply, and pinned down 
to give a concrete instance of what they talk 
vaguely about as the sharp practices of 

1 8 Charles Dickens 

lawyers, are, to their own surprise perhaps, 
obHged to admit that the individual lawyers 
they do happen to know personally, do not at 
all answer to their general idea of the class. 
On the stage, and in the pages of fiction, a 
lawyer is very seldom what is called a 
"popular" character. The stage lawyer is 
often the villain of the piece. Seldom is he 
presented as a benefactor, or a model of 
virtuous honesty, or the champion of the 
oppressed, or the exponent of the truth. 
Such a stage lawyer would probably be 
condemned as unreal by the critical playgoer. 
And yet, is it not, in real life, the case that 
the high-souled lawyer is a real personage, as 
many have (perhaps to their own surprise) 
discovered in their time of stress and mis- 
fortune? In one of his books Anthony 
Trollope aptly says : 

Is it not remarkable that the common repute which 
we all give to attorneys in general is exactly opposite to 

and the Law 19 

that which every man gives to his own attorney in 
particular ? Whom does anybody trust so imphcitly as 
he trusts his own attorney, and yet is it not the case that 
the body of attorneys is supposed to be the most roguish 
body in existence ? 

But if the lawyer has been unjustly 
maligned in literature, he may console him- 
self that he is not alone. The other 
professions have suffered in the same way. 
As regards the Church, is not fiction full of 
pictures of the lazy and the hypocritical 
parson ? As regards medicine, have not 
doctors been brutally caricatured as quacks 
who " thrust drugs of which they know little 
into bodies of which they know less"? 
And is not such criticism the outcome of the 
same baneful tendency to generalise, and 
subject to the same curious anomaly, that the 
critic who indulges in the cheap sneer at the 
body, is often the earnest believer in the 
individual ? Outside of the professions the 
same mis-description prevails in literature. 

2 Charles Dickens 

Are not many novels built upon imaginary 
mercantile transactions which, as the business 
world is constituted, would be simply 
impossible in real life, and have not 
merchants and traders and others been 
traduced for the purposes of sensational 
fiction? Dr. Johnson's crabbed definition of 
a stockbroker as " a low wretch who gets his 
money by buying and selling shares in the 
funds," is as much out of harmony with the 
truth as are many imaginary definitions in 
fiction of the parson, or the doctor, or the 

But I am at present more particularly 
concerned only with Dickens' attitude 
towards the law, and with the lawyer as 
painted by Dickens. His method is not the 
common one of unreasoning denunciation of 
a class. He knew better than to represent 
all lawyers as rogues, for he had the 
advantage of knowing the legal profession 

and the Law 2 1 

from the inside. He never lays down bad 
law, and he never credits a member of the 
legal profession with impossible professional 

But even Dickens could not divest himself 
of the common habit of allowing personal 
experience to colour his views. The plunger 
who, in his haste to be rich, stakes and loses 
on the Stock Exchange, immediately pro- 
ceeds to revile his stockbroker, whose only 
interest in the business was the earning of a 
modest commission. Smarting under the 
loss of money in an unfortunate speculation, 
the client is ready to adopt Dr. Johnson's 
definition of a stockbroker. So also the man 
who is unfortunate in his appeal to the law 
is often too ready to say with Mr. Bumble, 
the parochial beadle in "Oliver Twist," that 
"the law is a ass — a idiot." Every lawyer 
knows only too well that the layman 
is too apt to form his opinions of the 

2 2 Charles Dickens 

law generally according as the law has been 
kind or has been cruel to him personally ; 
and so, in regarding the legal scenes and 
characters in Dickens' works, it is useful 
always to bear in mind that Dickens didjiot 
love the law. Nor was his resentment a 
passing phase. His hatred of the Court of 
Chancery began with his own experience as 
a suitor. He was involved in a Chancery 
lawsuit over the piracy of his " Christmas 
Carol" and "Martin Chuzzlewit." He was 
entirely successful, for the lawsuit resulted in 
the pirates making a public apology. The 
judgment of the Court also found them liable 
in costs, but unfortunately the costs were 
not recovered, and Dickens had the not 
uncommon experience of securing a victory 
at law, but having himself to pay for it. In 
the first blush of his victory he wrote 
exuberandy : 

The pirates are beaten flat. They are bruised, 

and the Law 23 

bloody, battered, smashed, squelched, and utterly 

But when his bill of costs came in, and 

the pirates went insolvent, and could not pay, 

his exuberance was modified. There is 

nothing so effective in modifying exuberant 

jollity as a lawyer's bill. Dickens — like 

many another litigant — visited upon the 

Court the sins of the opposing litigant. It 

was not the fault of the Court that the 

pirates could not pay the costs, but Dickens 

counted it against the Court nevertheless, 

and when, within a couple of years, he again 

experienced piracy, he preferred to bear the 

ills he had rather than fly to others that, as 

regards the attendant cost, he knew not of. 

Once bitten, twice shy. He declined again 

to resort to the law, and wrote thus bitterly 

of his former experience : 

I shall not easily forget the expense, and anxiety, 
and horrible injustice of the " Carol " case. 

24 Charles Dickens 

Strong language is excusable on the part 

of a litigant who fights a lawsuit and loses it, 

and has to pay for the losing of it. Still 

stronger excuse is there for the ire of the 

man who fights a lawsuit, and gains it, and 

has to pay the costs of gaining it. But what 

may seem at the time injustice and anxiety 

are forgettable elements. Even the expense 

in time the average suitor can forget. But 

Dickens never forgot. This early experience 

coloured not only his opinion of the Chancery 

Court, but his opinion of the law generally. 

Thirty years later, in a private letter — and 

that, too, a letter to a lady — he wrote : 

I have that high opinion of the law of England 
generally which one is likely to derive from the impression 
that it puts all the honest men under the diabolical 
hoofs of all the scoundrels. It makes me cautious of 
doing right — an admirable instance of its wisdom. 

This sweeping sarcastic comment indicates 

that his attitude towards the whole judicial 

system was hostile, and, I venture to think, 

and the Law 2^ 

somewhat unreasonable. That there were 
abuses in his day, as there are in the present 
day, goes without saying. No system of law 
is incapable of abuse. In all his works 
Dickens no doubt aimed at calling public 
attention to abuses, with the hope of their 
being remedied, and in this instance, as in 
others, that aim was good. But even the 
greatest men are at times small, and, in this 
matter, it seems very plain that he was in 
such a novel as " Bleak House" working off 
his personal hatred of the Chancery Court of 
England, as well as showing up the abuses 
to which the practice of that Court lent 

The greatest novel of the law which 
Dickens produced — the most effective tale of 
the law, I think, ever written — was "Bleak 
House." It begins and ends in the Court 
of Chancery, and there is — from beginning 
to end of the long tale — not a single 

2 6 Charles Dickens 

character who can be said to be outside of 
the influence of the dominating legal element. 
In some of his other books the law plays an 
important part, but it only plays a part. 
There are other parts to play, and other 
interests to introduce. But in " Bleak 
House " the atmosphere of the law prevails 
throughout. Judges and Chancery Court 
officials, barristers, solicitors, law clerks, law 
stationers, detectives and police inspectors, 
litigants, singly or in groups, always occupy 
the stage, and every incident of the tale has 
a legal environment. Perhaps this very fact 
explains why " Bleak House," although, as I 
at least think, the most powerful sustained 
effort which Dickens made, is not his most 
popular novel. The legal characters are 
perhaps more subtly drawn, but they do not 
stand out of the canvas in the same way as, 
for instance, the popular legal characters in 
the " Pickwick Papers." To the experienced 

and the Law 27 

lawyer there is a very subtle humour in the 
interminable arguments of the Chancery 
barristers in the suit upon which the tale in 
" Bleak House" is built; but the humour is 
often missed by the lay reader, who more 
readily understands the lawyers of the " Pick- 
wick Papers." The deferential Chancery 
solicitors of "Bleak House" are, from a 
professional point of view, perhaps more 
interesting studies of legal character than 
bustling practitioners like Perker, or Dodson 
& Fogg of " Pickwick." But to the 
general reader they do not appeal. Mr. 
Tangle, K.C., and Kenge & Carboy, the 
Chancery solicitors of " Bleak House," 
will never grip the public imagination like 
Sergeant Buzfuz and Dodson & Fogg 
of " Pickwick." All that he knew of the 
law and of the Law Courts Dickens put into 
" Bleak House." The plot itself is not an 
original one in its inception, but its develop- 

2 8 Charles Dickens 

ment and its finish are new. Many law- 
suits have been described in the pages 
of fiction, but never one like /ariidyce 
and Jarndyce, the Chancery suit which 
in the opening chapter is described as 
"that scarecrow of a suit which has in 
course of time become so complicated 
that no man alive knows what it means.'' 
This lawsuit drove some of the parties to 
it into their graves, and others into lunatic 
asylums ; and in the end fittingly died of 
inanition, the whole estate which was the 
subject of the litigation having melted .away 
in costs. 

I think that Dickens was too hard upon 
the Chancery Court. As I have said, his 
vision of it was coloured by his own 
unfortunate experience. But the moral of 
" Bleak House," nevertheless, was not un- 
needed — although morals, where most needed, 
not infrequently are most unheeded. The 

and the Law 29 

law's delay is an old grievance, and it is 
to be feared that no system of legal 
procedure can ever entirely avoid that. But 
the methods of all British Courts of law 
have vastly improved since Dickens' day, and 
the improvements in Chancery Court practice 
probably owe more than its officials would 
care to admit to the exposure of the judicial 
methods which Dickens made in " Bleak 
House." In his enthusiasm for reform, how- 
ever, Dickens forgot that if there were no 
litigants there would be no lawsuits, and that 
Courts of law are very often what litigants 
make them. It is a common experience 
that illustrated so gloomily throughout this 
book — the effort of a litigant to extract for 
himself something out of a lawsuit which he 
would have been well advised never to have 
entered upon, and then, when his efforts have 
resulted in nothing, the tendency of the 
litigant, not to blame himself for entering 

30 Charles Dickens 

upon a wild-goose chase, but rather to 
blame the judge, or the Court system, or 
his own lawyers, or the opposing lawyers, 
or anything, or anybody, other than 

The picture of the Court of Chancery upon 
a foggy November day, with which " Bleak 
House " opens, has never been equalled as a 
setting of judicial environment. The descrip- 
tions of Courts in novels are often as 
imaginative as the law in them. 

Dickens knew the Courts too well to fall 
into the common error of laying his Court 
scenes in a false setting. In his early 
days he had opportunities of studying the 
solemnities of the law, first, as a youth 
in the office of Messrs. Ellis & Blackmore, 
later, as a junior law clerk in the office 
of Mr. Molloy, of 6 Symonds' Inn, who 
was the prototype of Mr. Vholes, the 
solicitor for Richard Carstone in the " Bleak 

and the Law 3 i 

House " Chancery suit, and later still as a 
shorthand Court reporter. He had himself 
also at one time the idea of becoming a 
barrister, and actually kept a few terms in one 
of the Inns of Court, but he abandoned the 
legal profession for that of literature. Dickens 
also had many lawyer friends, and numbered 
amongst his intimates such men as Talfourd, 
Denman, Campbell, and Hawkins. 

In daily association with the judicial solem- 
nities, it was impossible for him, even when 
setting out to caricature the Chancery Court 
system, to present other than a realistic picture 
of the Chancery Court itself. In all Dickens' 
writings I know of nothing which better 
illustrates that natural capacity of his for 
absorbing small details, which is the great 
charm of his descriptions of places and 
people, than the brief description of the 
Chancery Court in the opening chapter of 
"Bleak House." The Court itself, "dim 

3 2 Charles Dickens 

with wasting candles here and there," the 
Lord Chancellor on the bench, " with a 
foggy glory round his head softly fenced 
in with crimson cloth and curtains." This 
judge, and Justice Starleigh, who presided 
at the Pickwick trial, are Dickens' two 
contrast pictures of the bench. The Lord 
Chancellor in " Bleak House " is always 
courteous and polished, and betrays nothing 
of the boredom which the case oi Jarndyce 
mid Jarndyce was bound to inflict. He is 
courteous to Mr. Tangle, K.C., the "large 
advocate with great whiskers and a little 
voice." He is courteous also to " a very little 
counsel with a terrific bass voice, who arises 
fully inflated in the back settlements of the 
fog." Still more courteous is the Lord 
Chancellor receiving the two young wards 
in his own room. To this judge Dickens 
has as kindly a leaning as he, by contrast, 
had an unkindly feeling to Justice Starleigh. 

and the Law 33 

In his Court, and about this judge, the 
atmosphere of diginity which surrounds the 
Chancellor is altogether absent. 

Mr. Justice Starleigh was a most particularly short 
man, and so fat that he seemed all face and waistcoat. 
He rolled in upon two little turned legs, and having 
bobbed gravely to the bar, who bobbed gravely to him, 
put his little legs underneath his table, and his little 
three-cornered hat upon it, and when Mr. Justice 
Starleigh had done this, all you could see of him was two 
queer little eyes, one broad pink face, and somewhere 
about half of a very big and very comical-looking wig. 

Speaking of judges generally in his 
" American Notes," Dickens voices a very 
common idea of Courts of law. Many 
people can never dissociate the idea of stage 
effect from a Court. These people regard a 
Court as a set scene, in which every one has 
a set part to take ; and perhaps in a sense 
they are not far wrong, for there is an 
absence of individualism about a law Court. 
For the time being the barrister is not him- 

34 Charles Dickens 

self, but his client, lookinor at thinos from the 
client's point of view ; for the time being the 
judge is not an individual with personal 
opinions, but is the embodiment of the law, 
for the making of which he is not responsible, 
but only for its application. In the 
"American Notes" Dickens makes this 
quaint remark : 

There is undoubtedly a degree of protection in the wig 
and gown, a dismissal of individual responsibility in 
dressing for the part. 

To Dickens himself, the irascible little 
judge whom he created to preside at the trial of 
Bardell v. Pickwick had a special fascination. 
Justice Starleigh was one of his own creations 
whom he loved to impersonate. In that 
recently-published delightful book by R. C. 
Lehmann. entitled " Memories of Half a 
Century," there is described a reading given 
by Dickens of the Pickwick trial scene, in 
the course of which Mr. Lehmann says : 

and the Law 35 

I shall never forget my amazement when Dickens 
assumed the character of Mr. Justice Starleigh. The 
face and figure that I knew, that I had seen on the stage 
a moment before, seemed to vanish as if by magic, and 
there appeared instead a fat, pompous, pursy little man 
with a plump imbecile face from which every vestige of 
good temper and cheerfulness, everything, in fact, except 
an expression of self-sufficient stupidity, had been 
removed. The upper lip had become long, the corners of 
the mouth drooped, the nose was short and podgy, all the 
angles of the chin had gone, the chin itself had receded 
into the throat, and the eyes, lately so humorous and 
human, had become as malicious and obstinate as those 
of a pig. It was a marvellous effect in transformation. 

Nevertheless, Justice Starleigh is the familiar 
friend of every Dickens reader, whilst the 
polished Lord Chancellor lives in the recol- 
lection of but few. 

Of the three leading solicitors of " Bleak 
House," two are of a somewhat characterless 
type. They are both in Chancery practice, 
which does not seem to lend itself to any 
great individuality of character. " Conver- 
sation Kenge," as he was called, of the firm 

36 Charles Dickens 

of Kenge & Carboy, the solicitors for Mr. 
Jarndyce, is but a more successful and 
therefore a more cheerful edition of the 
melancholy Mr. Vholes, the solicitor for 
Richard Carstone. In Dickens' books the 
names of his characters are often full of 
significance. Mr. Vholes is an instance of 
that, a " vole " in a card orame meaning" a 
deal where all the winning cards fall to the 
dealer. It was in "Bleak House" that 
Dickens said, "The one great principle of 
the English law is to make business for 
itself." Solicitors created upon this low 
estimate of their profession, could not well 
be particularly interesting. The Chancery 
solicitors of "Bleak House" are none of 
them very lovable characters. They are too 
respectable and too commonplace. Take, 
for instance, the portrait of Mr. Vholes. 

Mr. Vholes is a very respectable man. He has not a 
very large business, but he is a very respectable man. 

and the Law 37 

He is allowed by the greater attorneys who have made 
good fortunes, or are making them, to be a most 
respectable man. He never misses a chance in his 
practice, which is a mark of respectability; he never 
takes any pleasure, which is another mark of respecta- 
bility ; he is reserved and serious, which is also a mark 
of respectability; his digestion is impaired, which is 
highly respectable ; he is making hay of the grass which 
is flesh, for his three daughters and his father are 
dependent on him in the Vale of Taunton. 

The third leading solicitor of " Bleak 
House" is a very marked contrast to the 
other two. There is nothing commonplace 
about Mr. Tulkinghorn, the family solicitor 
of Sir Leicester Dedlock, and the confi- 
dential depositary of the secrets of the great. 
Mr. Tulkinghorn of Lincoln's Inn Fields is, 
in my opinion, by far the most finished 
creation amongst all the Dickens lawyers. 
This lawyer tersely, but comprehensively, 
defined as "an oyster of the old school 
whom nobody can open," combines an 
old-school courtesy with the ferreting 

3 8 Charles Dickens 

proclivities of a Scotland Yard detec- 
tive. From the time he appears at old 
Crooks' rag store, in search of information 
about the poverty-stricken law writer, till his 
dramatic end by being shot, the action of the 
story turns upon him even more than upon 
the Chancery suit itself 

In " Bleak House," lower down in the 
professional scale, we find a greater wealth 
of character than amongst the barristers or- 
attorneys, and, in real human interest, none 
of the legal characters approaches to " the 
young man of the name of Guppy," the law 
clerk of Kenge & Carboy. As a study in 
law life he is most interesting. He first 
appears when sent by Mr. Kenge to meet 
the Chancery wards, and he is introduced 
in a few brief words, descriptive of the 
office boy of all time — "a young gendeman 
who had inked himself by accident." 
He rapidly developed under the influence 

and the Law 39 

of these "chords in the human heart " which 
it was his gloomy delight to strike. His 
proposal of marriage to Miss Summerson, 
" without prejudice," is in the best vein of 
Dickens humour. 

We read in the Life of Dickens how 
vividly he realised the characters he was 
creatino- — how he laucrhed aloud as the comic 
creations grew under his pen — how he wept 
as he chronicled sadness. I often think with 
what delight he must have painted the por- 
trait of " the young man of the name of 
Guppy." Dickens could enter into the 
feelings of just such a young man, for he had 
himself been a young law clerk, and he had 
a real love for the law clerk who figures in 
so many of his books, and of whom he had 
never an unkind word to say. 

There are several grades of lawyer's clerks. There 
is the articled clerk who has paid a premium, and 
is an attorney in perspective, who runs a tailor's bill, 

40 Charles Dickens 

receives invitations to parties, knows a family in Gower 
Street and another in Tavistock Square, who goes out of 
town every long vacation to see his father who keeps 
innumerable horses, and who is, in short, the very 
aristocrat of clerks. 

When David Copperfield was articled to 
Spenlow & Jorkins, his aunt, Betsy Trot- 
wood, had to put down a premium of 
^looo for him, and he got no salary. 

Then there is the salaried clerk — out-of-door or 
indoor as the case may be — who devotes the major part 
of his thirty shillings a week to his personal pleasure and 
adornments, repairs half-price to the Adelphi Theatre at 
least three times a week, dissipates majestically at the 
cider cellars afterwards, and is a dirty caricature of the 
fashion which expired six months ago. Then there is 
the middle-aged copying clerk who is always shabby and 
often drunk, and there are the office lads in their iirst 
surtouts, who feel a befitting contempt for boys at day 
schools, club as they go home at night for saveloys and 
porter, and think there's nothing like life. 

" The young man of the name of Guppy " 
belong^ed to the better class of salaried clerk, 

and the Law 41 

but he had ambition beyond that sphere, and 
he was appreciated by his employers, for we 
find him, in the closing chapter of the book, 
able to represent to Miss Summerson in 
pressing his suit that he had now been 
presented with his articles by Kenge & 
Carboy, and so was on the first rung of the 
ladder towards being a Chancery practitioner. 
The "chords in the human heart" are the 
attributes of " the young man of the name of 
Guppy " which the general reader of " Bleak 
House" mostly recollects. But his love 
story was only one side of Mr. Guppy — not 
all of him, and other and suggestive aspects 
of his nature are disclosed by such episodes 
as the way he stood by his friend Tony 
Jobling, who had gone down hill, the part 
he took in unearthing the secret of Lady 
Dedlock and Miss Summerson, his devotion 
to Miss Summerson, at whose request he 
desisted from investigating the clue he had, 

42 Charles Dickens 

and his kindness to and firm belief in his 
mother. I am persuaded that Charles 
Dickens intended " the young man of the 
name of Guppy " to go down to posterity a 
type in his own sphere of one of Nature's 
gentlemen, who, as a law clerk, was faithful 
to his employer's interests, and also ambi- 
tious for his own advancement in the 
profession ; who, as a lover, was constant to 
" the image enshrined upon his heart," and 
who in general was an all-round good 

In "Bleak House" the law takes on a 
sombre aspect, but in the " Pickwick Papers " 
the whole legal aspect is cheerful. None 
of the lawyers there is tinged with melan- 
choly. They are all of the lively and 
cheerful sort. Take Perker, for instance, 
Mr. Pickwick's own legal adviser — 

A little high-dried man with a dark squeezed-up face 
and small restless black eyes, that kept winking and 

and the Law ^3 

twinkling on each side of his little inquisitive nose, as if 
they were playing a perpetual game of peep-bo 
with that feature. He was dressed all in black, with 
boots as shiny as his eyes, a low white neckcloth and a 
clean shirt with a frill to it. A gold watch chain and 
seals depended from his fob. He carried his black kid 
gloves in his hands, not on them, and as he spoke, 
thrust his wrists beneath his coat-tails with the air of a 
man who was in the habit of propounding some regular 

Is not Perker the familiar type of the 
self-confident, but not brilliant, legal adviser, 
who is as well known in legal circles now 
as then ? But before Dodson & Fogg 
Perker pales in legal interest. Although 
Dickens' only contribution to the literature 
of the law had been his creation of 
Dodson & Fogg, he would have taken a 
first place as the portrayer of legal character. 
The hold upon the public imagination which 
this firm has acquired is wonderful. An 
illustration of this realism occurred not very 
long ago, when a jury awarded to a solicitor 

44 Charles Dickens 

damages against a client who had called him 
"a regular Dodson & Fogg." 

From the lawyer's point of view one 
is tempted to inquire whether, after all, 
the commonly accepted view of Dodson 
& Fogg is warranted. They have been 
held up to ignominy as unscrupulous petti- 
foggers, and they will probably continue to 
be so regarded. But a lawyer does not 
create the facts of a case. He gets them 
from his client, and Mrs. Bardell's case was 
undoubtedly, as put before her solicitors, a 
good jury case. It is a striking thing that 
the evidence upon which she got a 
verdict was entirely the evidence of Mr. 
Pickwick's own friends. Mr. Winkle, Mr. 
Tupman, and Mr. Snodgrass were all what 
lawyers call "hostile witnesses." So was 
Sam Weller. The jury, of course, knew 
that they were the defendant's own friends, 
and no kind of evidence so tells with a jury 

and the Law ^^ 

as admissions wrung in cross-examination 
from a reluctant friend witness. In a case 
of the sort, what damaging admissions these 
friends had to make ! Dodson & Foo-o- 
were acute practitioners who astutely re- 
frained from overdoing their case. They 
contented themselves with proving their case 
out of the mouths of Mr. Pickwick's own 
friends. It was not buttressed by what we 
call collateral evidence. Mr. Pickwick's 
experiences would not have been difficult 
to trace. What if Dodson & Fogg 
had, for instance, called his friend Mr. 
Wardle and others to speak to Mr. Pick- 
wick's general behavour ? Of course we 
know that the kissing of ladies, old and 
young, and being kissed by them, was all 
part of the general jollity at the hospitable 
Wardle's country home. Of course we all 
know that there was nothing but benevolent 
intention in Mr. Pickwick's being found at 

46 Charles Dickens 

midnight in the grounds of a young ladies' 
boarding school. Of course we know that it 
was entirely owing to a geographical error 
that Mr. Pickwick found himself in a lady's 
bedroom in the hotel at Ipswich. But the 
jury did not know all this, and such circum- 
stances would have been quite relevant to 
make out a general character for frivolity 
and gallantry against the unfortunate 
Pickwick. The general character of the 
defendant is a not unimportant element in 
such cases, and Dodson & Fogg might 
have disclosed much more than they 
did to influence a jury. That they did not 
attempt this certainly stamps them as 
experienced lawyers, who knew when they 
had a good case in brief compass, and so 
refrained from making the very common 
error of overlaying such a case, with the 
possible result of strangling it. Then, in 
such cases, the demeanour of the parties is 

and the Law ^y 

always an element with the jury. A view of 
the plaintiff commonly entertained is that 
she was a fat and by no means attractive 
elderly female, but the well-known picture by 
Browne of Mrs. Bardell fainting away and 
being discovered in Mr. Pickwick's arms by 
his three friends represents her as a plump 
and comely widow, and it is quite likely that 
at the trial the personal appearance of the 
distressed plaintiff had its due weight with 
the jury. If she had not been comely 
Dodson & Fogg were certainly too astute to 
have presented her in Court. There was 
ample evidence to support the verdict of the 
jury. If it had not been so, Perker would 
no doubt have applied for a new trial. But he 
recognised that the evidence was sufficient, 
for he accepted the verdict. 

Dickens wrote before the days when it 
was competent to examine the parties in 
their own suits. In present-day practice, 

48 Charles Dickens 

the leading features of a breach of promise 
suit are the examination of the fair plaintiff, 
and the cross-examination of the perturbed 
defendant. What a pity that was not 
permissible in Dickens' day. What cross- 
examination Mr. Pickwick would have been 
subjected to by Serjeant Buzfuz, and 
how Pickwick would have lost his temper 
and given his case away. But Dickens 
was too loyal to the law to put Mr. 
Pickwick into the witness-box in the 
book, when he could not have done so in 
the Court itself. He contented himself 
with putting into the speech of Serjeant 
Buzfuz the points which could, with telling 
effect, have been made the basis of a cross- 
examination scene. 

There seems therefore nothing out of the 
ordinary course as regards the conduct of the 
trial. The subsequent behaviour of Dodson 
& Fogg was in accordance with the ideas of 

and the Law 49 

the time. Of course, looking at it from our 
twentieth-century point of view, it may 
appear monstrous that Mr. Pickwick should 
have been incarcerated because he refused 
to implement the jury's verdict, and possibly 
still more monstrous that Mrs. Bardell also 
should have found herself in the Fleet 
because she would not pay Dodson & Fogg's 
costs. But we have to recollect that, in 
Dickens' day, a debtor who failed to pay his 
debt could, as the law expressed it, have his 
person taken in execution. Even at the 
present time people are sent to prison 
every day because they will not pay certain 
kinds of debt. No doubt the incarceration 
of a debtor who is unable to pay his creditor 
is always hard. But no such element existed 
in Mr. Pickwick's case. Upon the verdict 
of the jury the Court had adjudged him 
debtor to Mrs. Bardell for the damages 
awarded, and debtor to Dodson & Fogg 

50 Charles Dickens 

for their costs. Mr. Pickwick was quite 
able to pay, and it was, accordingly, Dod- 
son & Fogg's professional duty to their 
client to recover her damages, and their duty 
to themselves to recover their costs. To 
effect this they were doing no more than the 
law permitted when they put Mr. Pickwick — 
and ultimately Mrs. Bardell herself — into the 
Fleet. Their anxiety to recover their costs 
the general reader does not appreciate, and 
perhaps Dickens' own experience of law 
costs in the piracy case before referred to, 
which rankled in his mind, may have led 
him unconsciously to unduly emphasise the 
element of the costs, and to forget that, after 
all, a lawyer's bill is a debt just as much as a 
tailor's bill. 

It is a tendency of lay human nature to 
regard a lawyer's bill as somehow different 
from any other kind of debt. There are 
some people who have an idea that a lawyer 

and the Law 5 1 

should be the benefactor, as well as the 
adviser, of his client, that when a litigation 
has been lost, for instance, the lawyer 
should not press for his costs, and that at 
any rate there is never any hurry for 
paying a lawyer's bill. The prevalence 
of ideas of that sort, and the popular 
suspicion of the law entertained by so 
large a proportion of humanity, probably 
explain why Dodson & Fogg have, in 
the public mind, became synonymous with 
chicanery and harsh dealing ; but upon a 
fair and impartial weighing of their recorded 
sayings and doings there may be room for 
some doubt as to whether they have not 
been unjustly vilified. 

I have always wondered whether Dickens 
himself ever contemplated that Dodson & 
Fogg would come to be associated in the 
public mind with all that is mean and tricky 
in the practice of the law. I am inclined to 

52 Charles Dickens 

think that he did not, and that he really had in 
his mind a much broader aim than merely to 
pillory the speculative lawyer, who has existed 
in all time, and exists to-day, and is not with- 
out his uses in the legal world. The history 
of the famous lawsuit of Bardell v. Pickwick 
was, I think, intended to be taken as a whole, 
and, so regarded, it is a delightful piece of 
satire upon the laws of evidence and the 
practice of trial by jury. It sometimes 
happens that a particular incident or a par- 
ticular character in a tale takes such a hold 
upon the public mind that the author's broader 
aim is lost sight of, and it is possibly so in 
this instance. Dodson & Fogg so catch the 
fancy that some readers never get past them, 
and forget that there were other characters 
and other elements in the little drama, and 
so they miss the delicate satire of this episode 
in the genial Pickwick's career. Incidentally, 
the author no doubt intended to condemn the 

and the Law 53 

conduct of litigation upon a speculative basis, 
and also to illustrate how, in the hands of 
clever lawyers, incidents, trifling and inno- 
cent in themselves, may be made to appear 
fraught with deep meaning, and be presented to 
a credulous, and possibly not over-intelligent, 
jury as what lawyers call "circumstantial 
evidence." But these were only incidents. 
The broad aim of the author was to present 
an object-lesson designed to cast ridicule 
upon that legal system which he so much 
detested, and which he never missed an 
opportunity of holding up to scorn. 

There is yet another lawyer in " Pickwick 
Papers" who deserves special mention, for he 
is of a type quite distinct from either Kenge 
& Carboy or Dodson & Fogg. Solomon 
Pell was of the fraternity known as bar- 
pariour lawyers, who practised in the 
Insolvent Court, now abolished as a separate 
institution and merged in the Bankruptcy 

54 Charles Dickens 

Court. These parlour lawyers Dickens 
thus described : 

The professional establishment of the more opulent of 
these gentlemen consists of a blue bag and a boy. They 
have no fixed ofifices, their legal business being transacted 
in the parlours of public-houses or the yards of prisons. 

Mr. Solomon Pell had two of the essential 
elements which make for success in the law — 
he had perfect confidence in himself, and he 
had the art of inspiring confidence in his clients. 
One of his clients was Mr. Weller, senior, 
who first met him over obtaining the 
discharge of a friend of the road "who had 
contracted a speculative but improvident 
passion for horsing long stages, which had 
led to his present embarrassments." Mr. 
Pell had then so impressed Mr. Weller 
that, when he and Sam conceived the idea 
of having Sam arrested for debt, so that 
he might go into the Fleet to be near Mr. 
Pickwick, Mr. Weller at once resorted to 

and the Law 55 

Mr. Pell, whom he thus described to Sam : 
" A limb o' the law, Sammy, as has got 
brains like the frogs, dispersed all over his 
body, and reachin' to the very tips of his 
fingers. " 

Mr. Pell was fortunate in retaining this 
client's confidence for all kinds of business, 
for after Sam had made his father understand 
that legal formalities were required to prove 
the late Mrs. Weller's will, Mr. Weller had 
no hesitation about the selection of his 
lawyer : " Pell must look into this, Sammy. 
He's the man for a difficult question of law." 
And this piece of business being satisfactorily 
disposed of, Mr. Weller and his professional 
adviser parted with mutual regard, their 
farewell, like their introduction, being made 
in the bar-parlour, and their confidence 
in each other remaining unshaken. Mr. 
Solomon Pell, like all the lawyers of 
" Pickwick," took a cheerful view of life, 

56 Charles Dickens 

although the phase of it which came 
particularly under his notice did not inspire 
cheerfulness. But ingress and exit at the 
Fleet required the aid of the law. Insolvent 
debtors were not particular as to the 
personality of their lawyers, and till the 
Fleet was closed these bar-parlour lawyers 
were a necessary evil, and, in their own 
sphere, perhaps, served their clients as use- 
fully as more exalted practitioners in the 
more savoury regions of legal practice. 

In "Great Expectations" we make the 
acquaintance of a different phase of the law, 
and of two of the best of Dickens' legal 
creations — Mr. J aggers and his clerk, the 
cheerful Mr. Wemmick. Of every other 
lawyer in the Dickens collection we have 
a personal description ; of Mr. Jaggers we 
have none, and yet his personality is vivid. 
No reader of " Great Expectations " can rise 
from its perusal without feeling that this 

and the Law 57 

character, in regard to whom the fewest words 
are said, is yet the outstanding personality of 
the tale. When he first appears upon the 
scene, visiting Pip to tell him of his good 
fortune, Mr. J aggers thus tersely introduces 
himself, and in so doing reveals the man : 

My name is Jaggers, and I am a lawyer in London. 
I am pretty well knoivn. 

Equally laconic, but quite expressive, is 
Mr. Wemmick's description of his master : 

Always seems to me as if he had set a man-trap and 
was watching it. Suddenly — click — you're caught. 

Upon Pip remarking that he supposed Mr. 
Jaggers was a skilful lawyer — " Deep," said 
Wemmick, "as Australia," pointing with 
his pen at the office floor to express that 
Australia was understood for the purpose 
of the figure to be symmetrically on the 
opposite spot of the globe. "If there was 

58 Charles Dickens 

anything deeper," added Wemmick, '' hed be 
itr As to the methods of business of some 
criminal lawyers, how a few words may 
express much, is illustrated by the following 
brief but suggestive conversation between 
Mr. Jaggers and his tout Mike, the "gentle- 
man with one eye, in a velveteen suit and 
fur cap." This is the conversation : 

"Oh," said Mr. Jaggers, turning to the man who was 
pulling a lock of hair in the middle of his forehead, like 
the bull in Cock Robin pulling at the bell rope, "your 
man comes on this afternoon. Well ? " " Well, Master 
Jaggers," returned Mike in the voice of a sufferer from 
a constitutional cold, "arter a deal of trouble I found 
one, sir, as might do." "What is he prepared to 
swear ? " " Well, Master Jaggers," said Mike, wiping his 
nose on his fur cap, " in a general way, anythink." 

Pip's impression of Mr. Jaggers when he 
went to see him in the Court is thus 
recorded : 

He had a woman under examination, or cross- 
examination — I don't know which — and was striking her, 
and the bench, and everybody, with awe. If anybody 
of whosoever degree said a word that he didn't approve, 

and the Law 


he instantly required to have it taken down. If any- 
body wouldn't make an admission, he said, " I'll have 
it out of you," and if anybody made an admission, he said, 
" Now I have got you." The magistrates shivered under 
a single bite of his finger. Thieves and thief-takers hung 
in dread rapture on his words, and shrank when a hair of 
his eyebrows turned in their direction. Which side he was 
on I couldn't make out, for he seemed to me to be 
grinding the whole place in a mill. 

Dickens had a wonderful power of inter- 
preting impressions. This description exactly 
personates the criminal lawyer. The man 
who devotes himself exclusively to criminal 
practice often acquires an Esau-like attitude 
of mind. For the time his hand seems to be 
against every man. He comes instinctively 
to regard every adverse witness as a liar, 
and about all great criminal lawyers there is 
an indescribable quality which compels 
attention, and inspires not only the con- 
fidence of clients, but the fearing respect of 
all regular frequenters of the criminal Courts. 

Mr. Jaggers is not a pleasant character. 

6o Charles Dickens 

He was not meant to be. He was meant to 
portray a special type of lawyer, better known 
in London than elsewhere, for London is the 
home of the specialised lawyer. And Mr. 
Jaggers is the type of the Old Bailey 
practitioner, the only one in all Dickens' 
writings, and introduced, as I think, in this 
book specially to represent this type, for the 
tale did not necessarily require a criminal 
lawyer ; for the purposes of the story any kind 
of confidential lawyer would have sufficed. 

In pleasing contrast to the hard and 
sour Mr. Jaggers, who so markedly took 
on the character of his surroundings, is his 
genial confidential clerk Mr. Wemmick, 
whom no surroundings influenced, whose 
domestic pleasantries so contrasted with his 
professional duties, with his toy of a house 
at Walworth, "the Castle" which was the pride 
of his deaf old father — "the aged P." 
Wemmick is the Mark Tapley of the law. 

and the Law 6i 

The sordidness of his professional employ- 
ment could not damp his spirits. He had 
grasped the philosophy of the entire separation 
of the professional and domestic side of life 
when he said to Pip : 

The office is one thing, and private Hfe is another : 
when I go into the office, I leave the Castle behind me, 
and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office 
behind me. 

To do just this is a most difficult thing 
for a busy lawyer to do. But that it is 
difficult to follow in practice does not make 
Mr. Wemmick's philosophy of professional 
life the less sound. 

In " Our Mutual Friend " the law plays 
little part. Mortimer Lightwood, no 
doubt, was a lawyer, and so was his friend 
Eugene Wrayburn. But their practice of 
the law was but nominal, and their aim in 
life was the pursuit of pleasure rather than 
of guineas. They were, however, like all 

62 Charles Dickens 

the Dickens lawyers, typical of their class. 
They represent the type of lawyer who 
takes a legal qualification rather for its 
social than its professional aspect, and there 
is nothing about them of any distinct pro- 
fessional character. 

In "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" there 
is only one lawyer, and he also is typical of 
his class, that select class of the semi-retired 
professional man who with a legal training 
has drifted into a legal siding, and smothered 
professional ambition. 

Mr. Grewgious had been bred to the bar and had laid 
himself out for chamber practice, to draw deeds — " ' con- 
vey ' the wise it call," as Pistol says. But conveyancing 
and he had made such a very indifferent marriage of it that 
they separated by consent, if there can be said to be sepa- 
ration where there had never been coming together. No, 
coy conveyancing would not come to Mr. Grewgious. 
She was wooed, not won, and they went their several 
ways. But an arbitration being blown towards him by 
some unaccountable wind, and he gaining great credit in 
it, as one indefatigable in seeking out right, and doing 
right, a pretty fat receivership was next blown into his 

and the Law 63 

pocket, by a wind more traceable to its source. So by 
chance he had found his niche. 

I always think of Grewgious as a 
suspended Perker. Perhaps he never 
had any great ambition to get on in his 
profession. Many lawyers do lack a real 
interest in their profession, and so they do 
not advance in it. Mr. Grewgious was this 
sort of lawyer, not to be called a failure 
exactly, but rather a might-have-been. Of 
course a comfortable appointment is a very 
pleasant form in which to suffer professional 
ambition to be smothered, and Mr. Grewgious 
in his niche is a pleasing picture of content. 
But he ceases to be interesting as a lawyer. 
Dickens tersely sums him up thus : 

He had snuffed out his ambition (supposing him to 
have ever Ughted it) and had settled down with his 
snuffers for the rest of his life. 

There, as the lawyer, we leave Mr. 
Grewgious. We are not here concerned 

64 Charles Dickens 

with him in his character of the kind- 
hearted guardian of his ward Miss Rosa Bud, 
and as acting the part of general peacemaker 
in that turbulent tale of " Edwin Drood." 

In " David Copperfield" there are several 
lawyers, but there is very little law. The 
nearest approach to a legal complication is 
the exposure of the humble Uriah Heep by 
Mr. Micawber, resulting in the recovery of 
Miss Betsy Trotwood's property, and the 
relief of the embarrassments of Mr. Wickfield, 
that genial and lovable specimen of the 
country solicitor, so very different from the 
Chancery lawyers of " Bleak House" or the 
sharp practitioners of " Pickwick." The 
weakness of old Mr. Wickfield, taken by 
itself, might seem contemptible, but in the 
hands of the master portrayer of character 
it is artistic, for Mr. Wickfield's facility was 
the necessary foil to Uriah Heep's roguery, 
just as the complications which resulted gave 

and the Law 65 

the opportunity to the unselfish and good- 
natured Tommy Traddles to right the wrongs 
of everybody all round. Mr. Traddles is 
probably the outcome of Dickens' own 
short attempt at keeping terms. He was in 
the life long enough to perceive the hard 
struggle which lies before the barrister without 
influence and connection ; and within his own 
circle Dickens, no doubt, knew many young 
barristers who went through the struggle of 
professional life of which Tommy Traddles 
was the impersonation. 

Uriah Heep as a lawyer's clerk, and 
ultimately himself a legal practitioner, is 
entirely devoid of interest. As a man, his 
loyalty to his mother is, perhaps, the shadow 
of a redeeming feature in his character ; but 
as a lawyer he has no distinctive character at 
all, and from the legal side he illustrates 
nothing, unless it be that which is common 
to every phase of business life — that the 

66 Charles Dickens 

hypocrite is bound, sooner or later, to reveal 
himself, and that double-dealing usually 
recoils on the head of the cheat. 

The other lawyers who figure in " David 
Copperfield " are Spenlow & Jorkins, the 
Doctor's Commons practitioners to whom 
David Copperfield became an articled clerk. 
But Mr. Spenlow is of interest rather as the 
father of Dora than as a lawyer, and his part- 
ner Mr. Jorkins is of interest only as illustrat- 
ing a favourite device of Dickens, of playing 
off one partner of a legal firm against the 
other. Dodson played off his partner Fogg, 
Snitchey his partner Craggs, and Jorkins 
was the bogey of the firm of Spenlow & 
Jorkins. Says David Copperfield : 

I was quite dismayed by the idea of this terrible 
Jorkins. But I found out afterwards that he was a mild 
man of a heavy temperament, whose place in the business 
was to keep himself in the background and be constantly 
exhibited by name as the most obdurate and ruthless of 
men. If a clerk wanted his salary raised, Mr. Jorkins 

and the Law 67 

wouldn't listen to such a proposition. If a client were 
slow to settle his bill of costs, Mr. Jorkins was resolved 
to have it paid, and however painful these things might 
be (and always were) to Mr. Spenlow's feelings, Mr. 
Jorkins would have his bond. The heart and hand of 
the good angel Spenlow would have been always open 
but for the restraining demon Jorkins. 

To which description of Mr. Jorkins David 

quaintly adds : 

As I have grown older, I think I have had experience 
of some other houses doing business on the principle of 
Spenlow & Jorkins. 

The type of the provincial lawyer is 

exemplified by Mr. Wickfield and Uriah 

Heep in " David Copperfield," and by 

Snitchey & Craggs in " The Batde of Life." 

Wickfield and Heep of Canterbury had no 

humour. Snitchey and Craggs were full of 

the best kind of it, unconscious wit. When 

Dr. Jeddler the philosopher, whose theory was 

that nothing in life was serious, entertained 

Snitchy and Craggs at breakfast the morning 

the lawyers came to render an account of 

68 Charles Dickens 

their stewardship to Alfred Heathfield, the 
doctor had quoted the French wit who had 
expired with the remark, "The farce is ended; 
draw the curtain." 

" The French wit," said Mr. Snitchey, peeping sharply 
into his blue bag, " was wrong. Dr. Jeddler, and your 
philosophy is altogether wrong, depend upon it, as I 
have often told you. Nothing serious in life ? What do 
you call Law ? " 

"A joke," rephed the doctor. 

" Did you ever go to law? " asked Mr. Snitchey. 

" Never," returned the doctor. 

"If you ever do," said Mr. Snitchey, "perhaps you'll 
alter that opinion." 

How intensely humorous also is Snitchey's 
description of the landscape of an old battle- 
field, which they looked at from Dr. Jeddler's 

Here's a smiling country, once overrun by soldiers, 
trespassers every man of them, and laid waste by fire and 

Only a Dickens imagination could have 
conceived of an invading army as "tres- 
passers " ! Then Snitchey goes on : 

and the Law 69 

" But take this smiling country as it stands, think of 
the law appertaining to real property, to the bequest and 
device of real property, to the mortgage and redemption 
of real property, to leasehold, freehold, and copyhold 
estate. Think," said Mr. Snitchey, with such emotion 
that he actually smacked his Hps, "of the complicated 
laws relating to title and proof of title, with all the 
contradictory precedents and numerous Acts of Parlia- 
ment connected with them. Think of the infinite 
number of ingenious and interminable Chancery suits to 
which this pleasant prospect may give rise, and 
acknowledge, Dr. Jeddler, that there is a green spot in the 
scheme about us." 

Almost every utterance of these two 
lawyers in "The Battle of Life" is humorous, 
and the story is full of legal sidelights, of 
which I shall mention only one, which to me 
has always seemed as full of humour as 
anything Dickens ever wrote. Two 
witnesses being required to Alfred's discharge 
to his trustees, Britain the serving man, and 
Clemency Newcombe the maid, were called 
to sign as witnesses. Every lawyer who has 
had occasion to requisition the services of 

70 Charles Dickens 

country persons of no experience to witness 
a deed knows how true to life is the descrip- 
tion of the male and the female witness, 
the seriousness of the one, the frivolity of 
the other, and the deliberateness of both. 

How Britain approached the deeds under protest, and 
by dint of the doctor's coercion, and insisted on pausing 
to look at them before writing, and also on turning them 
round to see whether there was anything fraudulent 
underneath, and how, having signed his name, he 
became desolate, as one who had parted with his property 
and rights, I want the time to tell, also how the blue 
bag containing his signature afterwards had a mysterious 
interest for him, and he couldn't leave it; also how 
Clemency Newcombe, in an ecstasy of laughter at the 
idea of her own importance and dignity, brooded over 
the whole table with her two elbows, like a spread eagle, 
and reposed her head upon her left arm, as a preliminary 
to the formation of certain cabalistic characters, which 
required a deal of ink, and imaginary counterparts 
whereof she executed at the same time with her tongue. 

The most unsavoury type of lawyer in all 
Dickens' writings is Mr, Sampson Brass 
in the "Old Curiosity Shop." He is a figure 

and the Law yi 

only a degree less repulsive than his client 
Mr. Daniel Quilp. 

This Brass was an attorney of no very good repute, 
from Bevis Marks in the City of London; he was a 
tall, meagre man with a nose like a wen, and a protruding 
forehead, retreating eyes, and hair, of a deep red. He 
wore a long black surtout reaching nearly to his ankles, 
short black trousers, high shoes, and cotton stockings of 
a bluish grey. He had a cringing manner, but a very 
harsh voice ; and his blandest smiles were so extremely 
forbidding that, to have had his company under the 
least repulsive circumstance, one would have wished him 
to be out of temper that he might only scowl. 

His first appearance is at the making of an 
inventory of the contents of the Old Curiosity 
Shop, when Quilp, the inexorable creditor, 
entered upon possession. H is last appearance 
is when the law which he had outraged 
overtook him in retribution, and the sentence 
of the Court was : 

That he should, for a term of years, reside in a spacious 
mansion, where several other gentlemen were lodged 
and boarded at the public charge, who went clad in a 

72 Charles Dickens 

sober uniform of grey turned up with yellow, had their 
hair cut extremely short, and chiefly lived on gruel and 
light soup. 

The career of Mr. Sampson Brass is one 
continuous record of knavery. He is the 
only lawyer in the Dickens collection 
absolutely without any redeeming grace. 
He had not even a sense of humour, unless 
it be credited to him for humour that he 
employed his sister, Sally Brass, as "his 
clerk, assistant, housekeeper, secretary, 
confidential plotter, adviser, intriguer, and 
bill of costs increaser." 

Sally Brass holds a unique place amongst 
the law clerks of Dickens, not merely because 
she is the only female law clerk, but also 
because she not only managed her brother's 
business, but managed her brother himself. 
The nearest approach to Miss Sally Brass 
amongst the numerous law clerks is Mr. 
Bazzard in " Edwin Drood," the confidential 

and the Law 73 

clerk of Mr. Grewgious, of whom his master 
rather stood in awe, much as Mr. Sampson 
Brass stood in awe of his sister. Dickens' 
description of Miss Brass once more 
illustrates how there was ever present to 
his mind a fixed hostility to the law and 
all its ways : 

In mind, she was of a strong and vigorous turn, 
having from her earliest youth devoted herself with 
uncommon ardour to the study of the law ; not wasting 
her speculations upon its eagle flights, which are rare, 
but tracing it attentively through all the slippery and 
eel-like crawlings in which it commonly pursues its way. 

The last word about Mr. Sampson Brass 
is in the author's best satirical vein : 

His name was erased and blotted out from the roll of 
attorneys ; which erasure has been always held in these 
latter times to be a great degradation and reproach, and 
to imply the commission of some amazing villainy — as 
indeed it would seem to be the case, when so many 
worthless names remain among its better records, 

74 Charles Dickens 

One would like to think that Sampson Brass 
was an exception to the general rule that 
every Dickens lawyer is a type, and to re- 
gard Mr. Brass as an excrescence rather than 
as a natural feature in the legal profession ; 
but modern experience is too strong for this 
pleasing assumption. Since Dickens' day, 
and not least conspicuously within recent 
years, not a few lawyers have ended their 
careers in the dock ; and it is to be feared 
that the type is not yet extinct of the lawyer 
who, from greed of gain, lends his professional 
aid to the tortuous devices of an unscrupu- 
lous client, and ends by finding himself with 
too much time for reflection within prison 

Sampson Brass is the picture of one 
kind of professional failure in life. There 
is a different type of failure, and a much 
sadder one, in " A Tale of Two Cities," 
for Sydney Carton, in some respects the 

and the Law 75 

most lovable character created by Dickens, 
was a lawyer, although that fact is 
apt to be forgotten, because the interest 
which centres round him does not move on 
the legal plane. I speak of him, of course, 
only in his legal aspect. Whilst personally 
he was the kind of man who would lay 
down his life for his friend, I am afraid that 
professionally he is also the type of man, 
not unknown in the legal world, who 
degrades his talents. The only aspect in 
which he is presented from the strictly 
legal side is that of what is called 
"devilling" to Mr. Stryver, the advocate 
who defended Charles Darnay at the trial 
for treason. 

Mr. Stryver was a man of little more than thirty, but 
looking twenty years older than he was, stout, loud, red, 
bluff, and free from any drawback of delicacy. 

It had once been noted at the bar that while Mr. 
Stryver was a glib man, and an unscrupulous, and a 
ready, and a bold, he had not that faculty of extracting 

76 Charles Dickens 

the essence from a heap of statements which is among 
the most striking and necessary of the advocate's 
accompHshments. But a remarkable improvement came 
upon him as to this. The more business he got, the 
greater his power seemed to grow of getting at its pith 
and marrow, and however late at night he sat carousing 
with Sydney Carton, he always had his points at his 
finger ends in the morning. 

The explanation was simple. Sydney 
Carton was supplying the brains, and Stryver 
was getting the success. It is a sad picture 
that of the jackal and the lion carousing 
together whilst Carton did the " boiling 
down " of the busy advocate's papers, which 
on the morrow Stryver should use to further 
his success, whilst poor Carton's work was 
unrecognised. Unutterably sad is the reflec- 
tion of this clever, but lost, lawyer as he 
walked home in the early morning after a 
carousal with Stryver : 

Waste forces within him, and a desert all around, this 
man stood still on his way across a silent terrace and saw 
for a moment lying in the wilderness before him a mirage 

and the Law 


of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance; 
sadly, sadly the sun rose ; it was upon no sadder sight 
than the man of good abilities and good emotions, 
incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own 
help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him 
and resigning himself to let it eat him away, 

I am afraid that in the law, as in other 
walks of life, there are many failures, of 
whom Sydney Carton is a type. 

I have barely tapped the legal mine of 
interest in Dickens. I have but glanced at 
some of the more outstanding aspects of the 
subject, and the more outstanding personali- 
ties. There are other aspects, and other 
individuals, over whom one would like to 
linger and to speculate. Delightful possi- 
bilities seem to lurk in many of the minor 
legal characters, such as Mr. Phunky, the 
bashful junior counsel for Pickwick, or the 
roisterous Lowton, Mr. Perker's clerk, and 
the law clerks who held high revel under his 
presidency at The Magpie and Stump, or 

78 Charles Dickens 

the meek-mannered Jackson, the clerk of 
Dodson & Fogg. But to exhaust the legal 
interest in the works of Charles Dickens 
would want a bulky volume. 

Some of the Dickens lawyers are eccentric 
and some commonplace ; some are dry-as- 
dust, some very human ; no two of them are 
alike, and each is typical of a class to be 
found in the legal profession in the present 
day, just as in the time of Dickens. That, 
by his writings, Dickens drew public attention 
to some of the cruel features of the law as it 
existed in his day, especially as regards 
imprisonment for debt, and that his writings 
were a powerful factor in removing or soften- 
ing hard features of the judicial system, there 
is no doubt. But there are anomalies and 
evils denounced in his books still unremedied. 
There is yet a wide field open to the Dickens 
student, in the judicial aspect of Dickens' 
works, and my aim has been accomplished if 

and the Law 79 

I have been able, in some degree, to flash a 
little light upon this undeveloped mine of 
interest, and in some small measure to 
create, as regards the attitude of Charles 
Dickens to the law, a desire on the part of 
others to inquire further into a subject so 
teeming with interest. 

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